I posted before about schools. I want L to have every opportunity to succeed. While I think it’s possible to succeed in almost any circumstances (in the US anyway), it’s obviously much easier in some than others. I want to remove as many roadblocks as I can from L’s way. I attended four schools – a Catholic school in Philly for K-1, a Catholic school in the ‘noke for 2 – 9, a magnet high school for math and science in the mornings for 10-12, and my local high school in grades 10-12 for all other subjects. When I changed schools in second grade, I remember being very, very bored. This lasted pretty much through 9th grade, when I changed again to go to public school. My first desire is for L to avoid that boredom. In eighth and ninth grade, I also had a very negative experience socially. My two best friends left the school in 6th and 7th grades, and I struggled to make friends the next year in eighth grade. I ended up hanging out mostly with people I didn’t particularly like (with at least one notable exception R!). Anyway, I think being a bit of an odd bird, a very small school wasn’t a great option. I did a lot better in a larger public school filled with all kinds of different people. I never want L to go through the social trauma I did either, if I can help it.
My high school wasn’t especially challenging, but I had good teachers, learned a lot, and was definitely challenged somewhat. The magnet school I attended in the mornings was really good in that I met lots of other kids who were very academically focused. The classes were small, and we got to do things like spend in the month of December working exclusively on a Science project and nothing else. In the afternoons, I had the traditional high school experience and enjoyed after-school sports. My only complaint is that it was very difficult for kids from my high school to get into the most exclusive colleges. Of the four hundred kids in my graduating class, one went to Du.ke and one to Cor.nell (on a ROTC scholarship). This compares unfavorably with B’s experience.
B had a very different high school experience. He went to a very exclusive prep school in Man.hattan. Many very wealthy students went there, and despite being the son of a Manhat.tan doctor, B thought he was poor. Ironically, he realized that wasn’t the case when he went to Har.vard, a place I’d always assumed was mostly filled with rich people. Anyway, B enjoyed his school experience. He wants L to have the same opportunities he did, namely to attend a school like Har.vard, should she be academically capable. Personally, I feel that I got a great and well-priced education from GT, but I can certainly understand B feeling like he should provide his daughter with the same chances his parents provided him.
I mentioned before that the schools are very poor in my immediate area. In particular, the local elementary school is particularly poor. While there’s no doubt parents and family have an enormous influence on children, peers are very influential as well. Our local school is not average, or slightly below average. It is bottom shelf, at least numerically speaking. The parent ratings are poor as well. We live in Ke.nt, and there are average schools in Ke.nt, so one option would be to move to a part of Ke.nt with average or slightly above average schools. However, I figure if we’re going to move, we might as well move to a place with excellent schools. Why not? There’s nothing I’d rather spend money on than opportunities for L.
So where are the excellent schools, and how much do houses cost there? Probably the best option would Mer.cer Island. I actually lived there when I first moved to WA. (My office was in a different location at that time.) According to Great Schools, it has the best schools in the area. What I like about it is that there are only five or six schools total – three elementary schools, one or two middle schools, and a high school. There are no worried about school districts changing and your child getting screwed if you live there. It’s very small and therefore, I figure not institutional. MI has other advantages as well. It’s a reasonable commute (< 25 minutes) to basically anywhere one might want to work in the area – Seat.tle, Belle.vue, Ke.nt – you name it. It’s right in the middle. It’s also an island (reachable by road) so it has lots of scenic views and a beautiful lakeside park. What’s the catch? Isn’t it obvious? Price – of course. The median home price on MI is 1.6 million. Ouch. The price for an entry level house is around 600K. For that, you get a modest house built around 1960 in decent condition but with no updates – original flooring, cabinets, bathrooms, etc. I definitely consider this an option. We live in a modest house now and are perfectly happy. Our house was built more recently (’83) but has only 1200 square feet. For 600k on MI, you’d probably get around 1800 sq. ft.
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The next option to consider is West Belle.vue. Belle.vue has four major high schools that I know of. Three are good, and two of the three are exceptionally good. The location is not quite as convenient as MI but still quite central, and the commute to most parts of Sea.ttle is arguably acceptable Here the median home price varies from 800K to 2 million, depending on the zip code. In the cheaper areas, for 600 to 700K, however, you get a house around 2500 sq. ft. built around 1980. It likely hasn’t seen much renovation, but it was higher end to start with and built more recently than the MI house, so overall, it’s a much better house. There are more modest options around here for 450 to 500K. For that amount, you get the somewhat run-down (but not dilapidated) 1960s 1800 sq. ft. house. I consider W. Belle.vue probably the most promising option.
There are various other options as well. If you head East of Lake Samm.amish, you find very nice houses at more affordable prices. Here you find houses 2500 sq. ft with brick facades built in the 90s for around 600K. However, you are totally off the beaten path here, and I think it would be really limiting in terms of job options since I am really not a big fan of commuting. The schools are not nationally renowned here, like W. Belle.vue schools, but they are very good and completely acceptable in my opinion.
South of Samma.mish, you find Issaqua.h. This area is dominated by three mountains, Cou.gar, Tig.er and Squa.k. B loves this area. He runs here regularly at lunch or on the weekends. I love it, too. I grew up on a small mountain, and I love to drive around and have my horizon dominated by a mountain. It just feels good. Anyway, the problem here is again being too far off the beaten path. With B’s current job, it wouldn’t be an issue, but it would be limiting if he wanted to pursue a more traditional career. The commute to my office varies between moderately annoying to seriously irritating, depending on the exact location. The schools her vary between moderate and very good.
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If anyone is still reading, congratulations on your perseverance! Episode II to come. 😉